I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
This is like if A Man Called Ove were actually as wholesome and enjoyable as it was marketed to be!
In The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, Albert has led a quiet life as a postman in a small English town. He keeps to himself, and has no friends or family other than his beloved cat. So it comes as a shock when he receives a notice from his bosses that he is to be forced into retirement on his sixty-fifth birthday. This causes him to reevaluate his life, and ponder what he has been missing out on—which is everything. So Albert vows to really live, beginning with finding George, the love he lost years ago. The only problem is, he has no idea how to start.
So overall this was a pretty sweet book! Albert is an endearing character, and I loved the friendship he forms with young single mom, Nicole, and her daughter, Reenie. Those two were my favorite characters, in fact, and Nicole’s own arc was lovely and moving. She was funny and clever and easy to root for.
The other characters are good, but not as well developed as Albert and Nicole. A couple of them, like Jack, are somewhat like caricatures, but I didn’t mind. I was kind of here for something light where I didn’t have to think too hard.
That said, though I wasn’t here for something deep, I still found the theme to be delivered in a kind of prosaic way. Nothing is really subtle, and sometimes it feels like the narration swings in, cymbals clanging, saying “this! is! the! message!” until you, the reader, are sighing and saying, “yes, I’m aware, please pipe down a little.” It didn’t make me dislike the book, but it is something that I would have liked to be improved, because it made the writing as a whole seem amateur.
On another note, I liked George and Albert’s relationship, though there could have been more development there. The resolution came quickly, and for me, needed more meat on its bones. However, seeing the flashbacks interspersed through the book provided good context and some decent emotion. I wish we could have spent more time with George in the present, though, because the more I heard of him, the more I wanted to see him. But still, it’s a cute enough romance, both bittersweet and hopeful.
In the end, The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle is far from the most fantastic book, but it’s still quite charming. The exploration of what it was like to be LGBTQ+ in the 60s and 70s is touching and sad at times, and the scenes where Albert sees how things have changed are moving. The characters are fun, for the most part, and the relationships are sweet, if a little simple. In fact, that phrase kind of summarizes the entire book. It’s a pleasant, uplifting story about second chances, though it doesn’t have the most elevated writing. Still, if you want something with a similar tone as The House in the Cerulean Sea, this is perfectly serviceable.
Content note: death of a beloved pet, though it isn’t lingered on too long.
The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle will be published on May 31st, 2022!